All too often, our clients first learn about uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage when they are in our office after being involved in a collision for which they were not at fault. At that point, they may have very serious injuries and have little to no insurance available to them through the at-fault party. This is too late!
UM insurance is coverage available to an injured party involved in an accident when the at-fault owner or operator of a vehicle is uninsured or underinsured. In Georgia, the statutory minimum bodily injury insurance limits – which is also the most frequently selected liability insurance plan – provides $25,000 in coverage to an injured party. This means that, odds are, if you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, the at-fault vehicle probably has only $25,000 in coverage available to compensate you for your injuries (and may have nothing at all!). This is where UM insurance is critically important.
If you are involved in an accident with serious injuries, and another driver carrying no or too little insurance is found to be at fault, your UM insurance is available to you to cover your injuries. Simply put, UM insurance protects you from finding yourself in a situation where you are badly injured and there is no or very little insurance available to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Here’s how it works:
- You are involved in an accident that is not your fault. You are badly injured and your total medical bills are $50,000. You have $2,000 in lost wages because you were unable to go to work for a week following your accident.
- The at-fault driver selected the Georgia statutory minimum bodily injury liability insurance limits of $25,000. The liability insurance company receives your medical records and bills and offers to pay you the full $25,000 in exchange for a signed release, which you accept. This does not even begin to cover your medical bills and lost wages, much less your pain and suffering.
- Fortunately, when you purchased insurance on your vehicle, you elected to have $100,000 in “reduced” UM coverage. This means that your UM insurance is reduced by the amount of liability (or at-fault) insurance available to you. In this hypothetical, it means that you have an additional $75,000 in insurance coverage available to you. After receiving your medical records and bills and proof of your lost wages, along with proof that the liability insurance has already paid the $25,000 policy limits, your UM carrier offers to pay the full $75,000 in UM coverage available to you.
- In total, you receive $100,000 to compensate you for your damages, when you would have only received $25,000 had you not elected to purchase UM insurance.
Some key things to keep in mind about UM insurance:
- It is not required under Georgia law. This means it is up to you to elect to purchase UM insurance when you are buying automobile insurance on your vehicle.
- UM insurance can be “reduced” or “added on.” If you purchased a “reduced” policy, your UM insurance limits will be reduced by the liability (or at-fault) insurance. For example, if you have a $25,000 reduced-by UM policy and the at-fault vehicle has $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance, you will not have any UM coverage available to you. In contrast, if you purchase an “added on” UM policy of $25,000 and the liability insurance has $25,000, you have up to $50,000 available to you in total.
- UM insurance is only available to you after an accident if the at-fault party has no insurance or too little insurance to cover your damages. You must first exhaust any liability insurance before your UM insurance kicks in.
- Most UM insurance contracts require that you provide notice to them that you were injured in an accident within a very short timeframe after the accident (sometimes within days!). It is important to notify your carrier in writing as soon as possible after your accident or to speak with an attorney as soon as possible so that your attorney can notify your carrier on your behalf.
If you are involved in an accident and need legal representation, please give us a call today!